The ongoing structural reform in German study programs, which constitutes a fundamental part of the Bologna Process, is characterized by the division of academic studies into three cycles. The bachelor’s degree (first cycle) gives two opportunities: to go on studying for a master´s degree (second cycle) or to apply for a job on the labour market. After the master’s degree, a student can move on to doctoral studies (third cycle). In introduction of bachelor’s and master’s degrees is the essence of what has been called Studienstrukturreform, or the ‘structural reform’ of the German higher education system. The overall aim of the ideas at the core of the Bologna Process, however, includes much broader aims than simply reorganizing the study programs. The changes since 1999 can be characterised as a comprehensive set of educational reforms.
The new degrees now being offered in Germany, the BA and the MA, are not just taking the place of the old degrees, the diplom and magister. The modularization of study programs is an essential part of the new system, and credit for examinations should be awarded by means of the credit point system. Modularization is the “aggregation of material areas into thematically and chronologically rounded and self-contained units.” Modularization and the credit point system are intended to make the programs offered in German higher education institutions internationally comparable; these new programs should make national and international barriers more permeable.
The short form BA/MA generally signifies the new mode of studying, across both Germany and Europe. This abbreviation is not to be confused with the exact kinds of degrees associated with specific programs of study, such as MA for ‘Master of Arts’ and M.Sc. for ‘Master of Science’. The additions ‘of Arts’ and ‘of Science’ can be allocated to bachelor’s as well as master’s programs. As a rule, degrees in science end with the words ‘of Science’ and degrees in the humanities end with ‘of Arts’. In the future, German teachers will need to have a Master’s of Education (M. Ed.). The new law degrees include the endings LL.B. (Legum Baccalaureus – Bachelor’s of Law) or LL.M. (Legum Magister/ Legum Magistra – Master’s of Law).